Trust as Stakeholder Glue

The conversation about your business defines your reputation, says David Shriver, Chief Reputation Officer of UK-based Ocado Group. And also, it defines your success: "Reputation is about trust. And without trust, your business cannot thrive." In an interview with the GDI, Shriver explains how retailers can get into a conversation "beyond just buying and selling".
20 June, 2023 by
Trust as Stakeholder Glue
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

GDI: Mr. Shriver, at GDI’s International Retail Summit you’ll be speaking about "shaping the 24/7 conversation". Don’t you need any sleep?

David Shriver: You’ll be glad to know that I do get a good night’s sleep! However, the fact is that the conversation about any business in the digital world is in real time, 24/7, across multiple geographies and multiple platforms, and to ensure that the conversation is well-informed you need to work out how, where, and when it takes place. The conversation about you as an individual, an organisation, or a business, is your reputation. If there is no conversation going on about you, you have no reputation. So make sure you understand it and are part of it.

You are Ocado’s Chief Reputation Officer. Is your job more about enhancing reputation (by telling good things), or more about protecting reputation (by reacting to bad things)?

Both of them – and none of them. In my role, I’m responsible for building, protecting, and measuring Ocado Group’s corporate reputation. The starting point is helping our board understand what the conversation about us as a business looks like from the perspective of our clients, our colleagues, the capital markets, the business media, and society and government.

Do customers really spend more because of a good reputation? Or is it more about motivating your employees, or boosting the share price?

Reputation is about trust. The greater the trust customers have in you, the more likely they are to buy the products you sell. Similarly, the stronger your reputation as a business, the more likely it is that you will be able to attract and retain the best talent. It’s also true that a strong reputation in the financial markets allows you to raise capital at a lower cost. Trust is the bond which connects you as a business to all of your stakeholders. It is the glue without which the business cannot thrive.

As a pioneer of online grocery, Ocado has been through all the extremes – from limitless praise to vicious attacks. How can you maintain the real-world Ocado without falling for those headlines?

You can’t determine the outcome of a conversation – it’s an organic thing – but you can ensure that the conversation is well informed. At Ocado Group, we focus on our mission of changing the way the world shops, for good, and we hope to inspire our stakeholders when they hear about the amazing technology we are developing for clients across the world.​

Retail conversation, let’s face it, can be quite boring sometimes. We offer product X for price Y, and, hey!, next week we’ll give you a Z% discount. Can I really wrap that core content into some shiny little storytelling?

Every business should have a purpose beyond just buying and selling. What is it that sets you apart? How are you changing things for the better? You need to find the right language to articulate that. The British playwright Tom Stoppard once said "words are [sacred things]. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you might nudge the world a little". That’s what great story-telling should aspire to do.

David Shriver will speak at GDI’s 73rd Internationale Retail Summit on September 7 about "The Power of Storytelling: Building Trust and Creating Value. How to shape the 24/7 conversation to protect and enhance a company's reputation."

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